Dear Sister of the Heart,
How do you speak to yourself? I don’t mean speaking out-loud to yourself- though you might do that sometimes. I mean your inner voice or voices. Do you speak to yourself with kindness? With meanness? A bit of both?
Let’s pause for a moment and consider what those voices inside our head are, and where they come from. With what tone do these inner voices speak to you? Tone is important. How do these voices make you feel? For example, both criticism and reassurance have an impact on our nervous system. Our body. How we talk to ourselves matters.
We all have voices in our head. We are constantly giving ourselves feedback. Have you noticed? All.Day.Long. You are not crazy to have voices in your head. Some of the voices we hear may be a little crazy-making, but, I assure you, you are not crazy.
My beloved teacher, the author and Jungian analyst Marion Woodman, guided me in sorting through these inner voices and making sense of them. She urged us- her students- to become conscious of these voices so that we could learn to live in peace and be at home in our bodies. It was through studying with Marion that I learned to practice discernment amidst the inner chatter, the ever-present inner chorus of feedback.
Here’s something to consider. The voices are there and they aren’t going anywhere. If you ignore them, they will have dominion over you. If you become conscious of them, you will have dominion over your life.
Sometimes the voice is male. Sometimes the voice is female. Sometimes the voice is without a gender.
In this Love Letter, I want to bring your attention to the inner voices of the archetypal mother. Jung defined an archetype as a universal symbol, energy, or story that we can all relate to. The mother archetype is the nurturing energy, the nourishment that fills our bodies and our hearts. She is Mother Earth and she is the caretaker. Literally or metaphorically, we can be well-fed or poisoned by the food we are given, or have learned to give ourselves.
Jung would say that this is the natural polarity of an archetype: there are two sides: the negative and the positive. And we’ve all got inner voices that are kind to us, and ones that aren’t so kind to us. Right? Simply put, the negative mother judges and admonishes us, and the positive mother loves us and accepts us in our totality.
Awareness of this could change your life. Imagine what your life would be like if you walked through the day being kind to yourself, at every turn — if every foible, perfectly imperfect misstep, and sweet stumbling block… you were met with kindness, by yourself — by your inner voice.
We all have an inner voice that knows how to nourish us and love us unconditionally. I would call that the voice of the inner positive mother. Often, we can access it more easily for the ones we love, than for ourself. And we all have an inner voice that knows cruelty, manipulation and unkindness as its mothertongue (so to speak); I would call that the voice of the inner negative mother.
Now… you may be diving right into your relationship with your mother figure in your family of origin. One of these inner mother voices may indeed sound like someone from your actual external life (could be a school teacher, an aunt, an older sister, a parent, an authority figure, or someone you saw on TV once as a kid). Right? And it may not! We live in a collective sea of voices and messages… and we are all exposed to the voices of the negative and positive mother everywhere.
As we work to make the inner mother- both positive and negative- conscious, we are evolving our motherline. Healing a mother wound, and slowly but surely cultivating the voice of the inner positive mother, changes our outlook, increases our confidence and even strengthens our immune system. It is the way to inner worthiness, which in turn ripples out to create better boundaries, nourishing relationships, and a life we allow ourselves to create and cherish.
So here’s a simple practice I find helpful. Identify the voice of the negative mother within… but don’t identify with her. Identify her voice, but don’t give her voice any power. Identify the negative energy but don’t let it get you down.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are looking into the mirror after getting up in the morning and you are having a bad hair day. Your inner negative mother is likely to be lurking and make a mean comment. You have the power to distance yourself from her. Instead of identifying with her comment, “You look so pathetic” and believing her words, you can step back and identify her. There she is! There’s the voice of the inner negative mother! I am not her! In that instant, you have made a ninja move and you are in the position of power. At the moment you do not let her words hook you, she has no power over you. With practice, you will get to know her and you will become a master in responding to her moves. Sometimes you may struggle to let go of the negative voice because you feel super-identified with that voice. That’s ok. Keep practicing. It can start with finding the positive inner voice for the first time and eventually, you will be identified with that voice.
At that moment of awareness, using the bad hair day as an example, you can choose to turn to the voice of the inner positive mother, with words such as these: “Oh sweetie, you have tumbled out of bed and your hair is adorably messy. Let’s have some fun adorning you for the day.”
You have the power to choose to not identify with the inner negative mother or give her words the time of day. You have the power to dig deeper and find the kind and caring voice of the positive mother within you and to identify with what she says and let her words heal you. And when you make that choice, it is a revolutionary moment for you, for your motherline, and for your daughter if you have one. It is a gift for all girls and women because you are changing the collective starting with your precious heart.
You are worthy of that love.
My own mother (yes, not my inner mother), often did not know how to speak to me with love. If that is heavy on your heart, you are not alone. We have the power to heal our heart and our personal mother does not need to be involved in the process. I believe it starts right here- within your own heart.
I’d love to hear how this practice lands for you. What do these inner voices sound like for you? Head over to my blog page at motheringanddaughtering.com/blog to comment, or send me an email. I’ll be back next month with another love letter for your heart.